I’m warning you all now that this is personal, and it may make you uncomfortable, especially if you’re my family, but nothing I’m saying isn’t something you all already know, family. That being said, let’s get on with it.
On multiple occasions, it has been alluded to me that it is a simple thing: being a single mom and only having one child.
I have been told I am lucky and that it is easy for me. I get breaks. I only have one child. It MUST be simple.
Let me make this perfectly clear: IT’S NOT.
It’s been approximately a year and a half since my son’s father and I broke up. Initially, I was told I was being selfish, and that I just wanted to go out and party, and have an easy life. How I would manage that, when I was choosing the HARDER path, I don’t know. I suppose it’s all in perspective.
Initially, he and I split, or rather, I chose to be single, because he and I were no longer in an actual relationship, but I’ve covered all of that. And anyway that wasn’t the only factor. He wasn’t involved in the family unit. He spent all day sleeping and all night playing video games. He missed the first time Q crawled, his first steps, and other important milestones – partially due to his work schedule, but also due to his apathy. So there’s that. It was by no means an easy decision to come by. And at that time, I was working full time, going to school, participating in an internship, AND raising my baby on my own. All the while, I continually worried whether or not I was doing the right thing.
All of my life I have been deathly afraid of following the same path as my mother. Now, I have no idea what it was like being her. But, I know what it was like being me being raised by her. I have four siblings, only one of which has the same father as me. I watched her go through substance abuse problems, I’ve had two step-fathers, and multiple other pseudo-step-fathers (if that’s a thing). I had a HECTIC life growing up. It was stable in that I was enrolled in the same school district from kindergarten to graduation. I lived in four different houses growing up. I mean, I loved them all. I climbed trees, and played outside, and rollerbladed in the street. However, the different “father” figures in my life, the cycle of no discipline then angry mom then happy mom then depressed mom, made for a not great environment. But my mom was a single mom. She had THREE children. I’m sure it was terribly trying. On the other hand, I don’t want to date/marry men my child doesn’t get along with at all or be neglectful of his feelings or even of him because I was busy looking for a man. From my perspective, that’s how my childhood went. I’m not saying it’s entirely accurate, but again perspective.
And now, I am a single mom. I am FRIGHTENED BEYOND BELIEF that I will travel that path. So far, I am not that, I don’t think.. I don’t have substance abuse issues, and I am certainly not actively looking for a man to be in my life, to validate my existence, etc. – recent post about dating notwithstanding. [Yeah, I wanna go on a date or two, but it’s not necessary to my existence, or to raising my child. Q has a dad. THAT’S his dad, and his only one.] I read a bedtime story to Q every night, and make him supper every night, and make sure he knows the rules and boundaries. I always hold his hand when we’re crossing the street, and I give him v-8 fruit juice to make sure he gets all the vegetable servings he needs. And we almost always have healthy snacks rather than junk food. I always tell him I love him, hug him, and kiss him when I say goodbye. I hug him when asks, and even when he doesn’t. It’s my ultimate hope that I raise a respectful, well-mannered, groomed, happy, carefree, loving young man.
However, I am constantly worried that in choosing this path, I have irrevocably screwed up my child. Irrevocable. That’s for life, folks. Have I screwed up my child for life?! By CHOOSING to be a single mom? I worry about that A LOT. And, do I give him enough love to make up for the fact that his dad no longer lives with us? Can I teach him to pee in the toilet the way a guy does? (The answer is no, by the way, because we haven’t even tackled the first hurdle in potty training.) Am I a terrible mom because I’m not patient with him all of the time? After having a two day “break” from him, am I terrible for being annoyed that he repeats the SAME sentence forty-two times until I repeat it word-for-word back to him, and then still have to acknowledge what he said with another comment? Is it really crappy of me to laugh when he repeats swear words? Am I teaching him swearing is okay?!? Do I let him watch too much tv, even though we only watch PBS or other educational cartoons? Should I spend more time building train tracks, playing race cars, etc., since I don’t see him seven days a week? Should I feel guilty because his new phase of temper tantrums in reaction to not getting his way EVERY TIME I say no, sometimes forces me to take refuge in another room rather than yell at my kid?
It’s not easy to have these constant worries weighing me down. And let’s keep in mind that while I get a “break” from my child, at his dad’s, discipline is different, so is bedtime, so is the way in which his dad handles meals, and play time, etc. So I’m constantly dealing with a child who is constantly adjusting to two different home lives. Well, you two should just do the same things in both houses. Well, we would, but then, if we were able to settle our differences so easily, wouldn’t we still be together? Maybe. But that’s not the case, now is it?
And while he’s at his dad’s, I’m usually either so exhausted that I simply attempt to catch my breath, or attempt to catch up on my cleaning, laundry, etc. because it’s impossible to do when he’s here.
Did I mention that Q had “reactive airway disease”? It’s basically asthma, but with a fancier, less stigmatic name. That requires medicine every four hours, and many times as much as every two, during the middle of the night when he is reacting. These bouts of reaction happen about once a month for days at a time.
In the end, my point is that it is NOT easy and just because I only have ONE child doesn’t make it any more so. And before anyone tells me it is, try walking a mile in my shoes. Perspective.